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Wolf kills a calf in Colorado, the first confirmed kill after the predator’s reintroduction

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DENVER (AP) — A wolf has killed a calf in Colorado, wildlife officials said Wednesday, confirming the first livestock kill after 10 of the predators were controversially reintroduced in December to the aggrievement of the state’s rural residents.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirmed after an investigation that the wounds of the calf killed Tuesday, and nearby wolf tracks, were consistent with a wolf kill, what they refer to as a “depredation.”

“The field investigation found multiple tooth rake marks on the calf’s hindquarters and neck, and hemorrhaging under the hide, consistent with wolf depredation,” Jeromy Huntington, one of the agencies wildlife managers, said in a statement.

The agency did not say how many wolves were involved, or if it was one of the recently released animals. In the past few years, a handful of wolves have wandered down from Wyoming and killed livestock.

The calf’s owner can be compensated by the state for the animal’s market value, up to $15,000. Still, ranchers argue it’s just not enough.

“The incident, which resulted in the loss of livestock, underscores the ongoing challenges faced by ranchers in managing conflicts between livestock and wildlife,” Tatum Swink, spokesperson for Colorado Cattlemen’s Association said in a statement.

Colorado’s reintroduction of wolves, which narrowly won in a 2020 ballot measure, created political shockwaves throughout the state.

Ranchers and farmers lambasted the proposal as “ballot biology,” arguing that the animals would chomp into their businesses and the industry at large. Even nearby Republican states including Wyoming, Idaho and Montana refused to provide wolves to Colorado, which eventually got them from Oregon.

Proponents argued that the apex predators would reestablish an ecological balance in the area. Wolves were largely hunted out of the state by the 1940s.

Gray wolves killed some 800 domesticated animals across 10 states in 2022, including Colorado, according to a previous Associated Press review of depredation data from state and federal agencies.

While the losses can impact individual ranchers, it’s a fraction of the industry at large, only about 0.002% of herds in the affected states, according to the analysis.

In Colorado, 10 wolves were released in December at undisclosed locations in the Rocky Mountains. Bounding out from their cages after long plane flights, the first five disappeared into the forest as Gov. Jared Polis, wildlife officials, biologists and journalists looked on. Wildlife officials expect to release 30 to 50 wolves over the coming years.

Strategies to deter wolves from livestock include tying streamers or blinking lights to fences to make the predators wary of crossing into ranches. Wolves can eventually get used to the strategies, so they can only be used in over short periods and aren’t airtight.

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Bedayn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

By JESSE BEDAYN
Associated Press/Report for America

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